Use WordPress to Create a Website or Blog


What is a WordPress Theme? The “theme” provides the basic look, design and functionality of your site.

On your WordPress Dashboard, go to “Appearance” and then “Themes”. WordPress comes with a default Theme, such as “Twenty Fourteen”, which you will see there under “Themes”.

WordPress Twenty Fourteen Theme


Free WordPress Themes

WordPress provides many free themes with different backgrounds and designs, along with upgraded paid versions with more features. Click on “Add New” and you can search for other themes that meet the criteria you designate with the “Feature Filter”.WordPress Themes Search

You might experiment a bit and choose a couple of different themes to try out. When you install additional themes, they will appear under the “ Themes”. You can then click on “Live Preview” to see how your site would appear using each theme. When you find one you like, you can click on “activate” and your site will now appear with that theme’s backgrounds and features. For the most part, you can switch themes in and out with a click to see the different designs without messing up your content. (I recommend having a back-up just in case, though.)

Note: Your content may appear differently when you switch templates because of the template format itself. Also, if you have altered the template code itself, you will lose those changes.

If you need or want something more than one of the free themes offers, such as a particular “look” or a theme designed for a specific purpose (ex. a magazine or eCommerce template), many themes created for use with WordPress are available for purchase. These can give your site a much better appearance and many nice features for a very reasonable cost. Most also offer some level of support. (Note: It is possible to add many features to WordPress with free plug-ins and it is possible to add other nice design elements if you know code, but much of this can be simplified with an inexpensive template.)

WordPress Themes: $30-50 Budget

I have used and was happy with templates purchased from ThemeForest, where you will find hundreds of WordPress themes for around $30-50.

WordPress Themes: $60-90 Budget

For a slightly larger investment ($60-80), a good choice for many would be a theme from StudioPress. Known for security, built-in content optimization and support, StudioPress creates a variety of theme designs all based on its foundation Genesis “framework”.

If you want to experiment with themes, another option is ElegantThemes, which offers a portfolio of more than 80 WordPress themes for an annual membership fee of around $89. This site has been constructed using their responsive “Foxy” template.

Another good option around $90 is Thesis from DIYthemes LLC. Experienced web designers choose it for its search engine-optimized, fast-loading theme framework, as well as its Visual Design Template Editor.

“Drop and Drag”

If you want more “drop and drag” type design flexibility, you could add a plug-in to a good basic theme—for instance, use the Visual Composer plug-in $25 with StudioPress’ Genesis theme, or use ElegantThemes’’ Builder Plugin with one of their themes ($89 Developer annual membership includes access to more than 80 themes and all of their plugins) – or, better yet, just use their amazing Divi theme.

 Choosing a WordPress Theme

Sorting through theme options can be overwhelming. To simplify the process:

  • Decide on a type of theme. For instance, do you want an “e-commerce” theme, a “magazine” theme, a “corporate” theme, or a “creative” theme to show off your portfolio?
  • Consider the basic design that will work best for you. For example, do you want right-side or left-side navigation? Do you want a customized “header”, for instance, or a photo “slider” at the top? Do you want certain colors? Do you want a certain number of columns?
  • Identify the features you really need, as well as those that would be “nice to have”.
  • Because more and more users are now viewing sites on tablets and other mobile devices, I highly recommend choosing a “responsive” theme that will adjust the page based on the screen it’s being viewed on.
  • If you go shopping for a theme on a larger site with themes from many different designers, such as ThemeForest, go to the page that has your desired type of WordPress template. Start by limiting your choices to templates that are both highly rated and at least fairly high volume. Every new product will have a few bugs, so you want one that already has most of the bugs worked out. The more users there are, the more likely that the bugs have been fixed and that the developer will provide decent support. Sort through the options to find ones with your desired features. You can then check out the look and features through a “live preview” or “screen shots”.

Install a WordPress Theme

After you purchase the theme, download it and follow the directions provided by the provider to install it. (Generally, you will find a zip file to upload the theme file to your WordPress account. Sometimes Mac users will have to go to their Finder menu and Compress the file to create a zip file.) On your WordPress dashboard, go to the “Appearance” tab and find “Themes”. At the top of the “Themes” page, click on “Add New”. Click on “Upload” to upload the theme. Then click on it to activate it.

WordPress Theme OptionsThen click “Customize”  to customize elements such as the background colors, sidebar, headers and footers. After you install it, adjust the settings for your theme as desired.

Once you’ve decided on a Theme, you can supplement its features and functions using WordPress Plugins.